Back to the Beginning:
SERIES RATING: *shrug* I just go with it, so range from PG-13 to NC-17
"Where is it?" He stormed around the warehouse. Things had been going so well, he thought. He had seen the little Slayer in action, and was sure that she would be easy to dispatch. Her fighting, though strong, was sloppy. Something was clearly holding her back. That did not concern him. No what had him pacing was coming back to the warehouse, hearing the words she was saying to him, he was livid. The plans had been drawn up, and were to be followed precisely. This little set back was not supposed to happen.
"We don't know. They never came back." His assistant shrugged. He felt his face change, the ridges coming out, his fangs elongating. His anger palpable in the room, and she stepped back from him.
"Well get it!" He howled.
When Buffy arrived the next afternoon at the Magic Box, Faith was sitting on the curb in front. She watched Faith, as she got closer. She noticed first that the younger Slayer was smoking, something she was not aware that she did. Secondly she noticed that she was wearing black slacks, not jeans, not leather, but a nice pair of slacks. Third thing was that her whole demeanor looked different. She did not appear to be the normal, trampy Faith. When she was closer, Faith raised her eyes, and tossed her cigarette away, standing. She walked over to meet Buffy.
"Not sure what we were thinking, but the Box is full of sweaty construction guys." Faith said with a shrug.
"Oh, right." Buffy came to a stop, trying to catch Faith's eyes, but they were looking everywhere else. She was unsure what was going on now. They had bickered, and argued last week Then Faith had gotten hurt, and since the talk there was this weird tension between them. And it seemed even stronger today. Buffy wasn't sure what it meant, or what she wanted it to mean. "I guess my place then?"
"Whatever." Again with the shrugged response.
Well if Faith wanted to play the moody warrior that was fine with Buffy, she had years of experience ignoring moody brooding people. Case in point, Angel. Though he isn't really a person. Buffy snapped to attention seeing Faith walking away. She trotted after her, and they settled into a walk side by side.
"Did you talk to Dawn?" Faith asked.
"About what?" Buffy wondered, picking at a loose string on her jacket. Maybe she should have gone home last night, but she had been too busy. Busy. There was something seriously wrong with her. Buffy had no idea what had come over her, why she had sought out Jane again, the third time in as many weeks. But it seemed, now that Spike was gone; she needed to quench this rampant lust she felt gnawing away at her. With Spike it had been easy, he was always willing, and eager to help her alleviate the need. And it worked, for a while. But she could not dominate him, and that was what her body was craving now. To be able to complete dominate her partner, who ever they were, to bend them to her will. Take what she wanted and leave. That was what she craved now. Unconsciously she shook her head, she had no idea what was happening to her.
"Sneaking out, getting nearly kidnapped." Faith stopped, turning to look at Buffy. She felt Faith's eyes raking over her. "You didn't even go home last night." She spat, and then began walking away again.
Where did she get off talking to me like that? Buffy stopped her mind, mid-rant.
"Wait, what? Dawn got kidnapped?" her hand went to her throat. What had she done? She was supposed to be there for her sister, watching over her and protecting her. Not out in a filthy alley fucking some whore. What if she was hurt, what if-
"I said nearly." Faith said. "I came across three vamps who had her."
"What did they want?" Buffy asked, putting her arm on Faith's, stopping her from walking.
"Didn't really take the time to ask, B. I was busy dusting them."
"She's okay?" Buffy sighed heavily, relieved. If Dawn was hurt, even Faith would have told her by now.
"She was last night." Faith shrugged.
"Why would someone want Dawn?"
"They looked run of the mill." Faith pulled her arm away and kept walking. "Nothing special about them. She snuck out, so I am guessing that they came across her, thought she looked like a good meal, and took her."
"Oh." Buffy said, as they turned the corner onto the block of decrepit houses that she called home. "Oh!" Faith raised her eyebrow. "I ran into some pretty lame vamps myself, last night. One got away, but he was going on about he was going to kill me, and then how he wanted to see me in action."
"And he got away?"
"I wasn't in the mood to chase him."
"Not in the mood huh?" Faith snapped walking up Buffy's front steps.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Buffy sneered, unlocking the door and pushing past Faith. There was something clearly bothering the brunette, but Buffy didn't have time to deal with that now. "DAWN!"
I went back into the kitchen, not really wanting to get involved with the Summers sister-yelling jamboree that was happening in the front room. The amount of huffs, and pouting lips, I don't know how in the world anything ever got accomplished between the two of them. I let the kitchen door swing closed behind me as I stepped inside. Willow looked up from her laptop and smiled.
"Did you just smile at me?" I asked, pulling out a chair and sitting down.
"Whatever came over me, I am sure it will pass soon." She smirked. I had never had any sort of relationship with Red before, so this, whatever it was between us, was awkward. But it didn't feel too bad.
"Right." I drew out the word and smiled back.
"So Buffy didn't come home last night," She asked, widening her eyes at me.
"Whoa there." I raised my hands and leaned back. "Don't know what you head is thinking, but you just stop."
"I have to be honest with you Faith. I talked to Xander the other night."
"Okay, and I am supposed to care, why again?"
"He told me."
"About you and Buffy." She said, obviously searching my face, looking for me to give something away. Tough luck. I stood up and went to the refrigerator, I waited to answer her, opening a bottle of water and leaning on the counter.
"There is no me and Buffy."
"Red." I growled. "I hate her, she hates me. We tolerate each other for right now." I took a deep swig. "How are you doing, by the way?"
"I thought so." I smirked, hoping she would let it drop.
"Much better I think." She shrugged, and turned back to the computer. "I am thinking about moving into the apartment."
"Great!" I beamed and sat back down; satisfied that she would leave the other conversation where it belonged, dead.
"I am a little nervous." She peaked over the top of the laptop screen.
"Being totally on my own."
I shrugged. "Have Kiddo stay with you for a few nights, till you get settled."
"Maybe." She bit her bottom lip. I reached into my pocket and tossed the two keys at her. She missed and they fell to the floor. I giggled. "Did you just-"
"Shut it Red." I finished the water as the door opened behind me.
"Please, Faith, drink all of my water, it isn't like it costs money." B snapped as she went to the fridge. Bitch. I didn't bother to respond, just tossed a twenty-dollar bill on the table.
"Wow, that is some expensive water." Willow grinned at me conspiratorially.
"Faith." B moaned seeing the money.
"What, I am gonna drink another one before I leave." I shrugged, wanted to get out of here and on with my day. Every time I looked at her I pictured her face flushed, her arm thrusting under – WHOA. Stop that right this fucking minute. "So B, tell us about the one that got away."
"Oh, oh, something brewing? I can help, I can help." Red was bouncing in the chair. Man that girl was bored out of her mind.
"I don't know if anything is brewing. I mean," B shrugged dropping down at the table. "He didn't look like a Master Vampire or anything."
"Details, and the research shall commence." Willow clasped her hands.
Buffy rubbed her hands over her face. They had been at this for two hours, and hadn't found anything yet. Faith was leaning back in her chair, staring at the ceiling, that or sleeping, Buffy couldn't tell. She rolled her neck towards Willow, who was flipping through a book with one hand, and typing on a keyboard with the other. She was in her element that was sure. Researching, it made the red head come alive. She seemed engrossed, and content. Buffy wished she had thought of this sooner. Giving Willow something to do to get her mind off of Tara and the magic. Why hadn't she thought of this sooner? Oh that's right, she was too busy working, and slaying, and fucking her brains out with anything and everything in Sunnydale. She rubbed her eyes again. What is wrong with me? She sighed.
"You all right over there, B?" Faith asked, her voice strained with her neck leaning back.
Oh sure, just peachy, just thinking how much longer do I have to sit here, bored out of my mind? Waiting until I can go work my shift slinging meat, and then going to find Jane, because it is building up inside of me again, this hunger, this painful ache, and I just want to get it all out. Can you help me, Faith? Could you help me get rid of this gnawing ache that gets worse and worse every day? "I'm five by five, F." She drawled. Buffy watched as Faith leaned up, and raised an eyebrow.
"Is that so?"
"Oh, yeah, Faith. Always wondered what that meant. Should I show you what I think it means?" She rolled her tongue over her bottom lip, and Faith widened her brown eyes. What am I doing? Am I flirting with Faith? Why am I flirting with Faith? DID SHE WINK AT ME? Is she flirting back?
"Buffy?" Willow looked over at her.
"Giles is standing behind you." Buffy sat up straight, all thoughts of teasing Faith wiped from her mind, as she turned to see him standing there, arms crossed.
"Buffy." He nodded at her.
"Hey, Watcher man." Faith grinned, leaning back again.
"Can I see you for a moment, Buffy?" He asked, voice stern. She shrugged and slipped out of the chair, and followed him out into the living room. She wondered what he wanted now, and where he had been all morning.
Straight away she noticed that something was different. And big different. Standing in her living room, next to her fireplace, was a tall man. His back was to her, but she noticed the suit, the jacket with leather patches on the elbows. This guy screamed Council.
"Buffy, this is Holburn Strand." The man turned around, and surprisingly he was not wearing glasses. Buffy tilted her head, sizing him up. Maybe in his late thirties, sandy blonde hair, light brown eyes. His face held the same boyish good looks and naivety that Giles first had when she met him.
"And you must be the infamous Elizabeth Anne Summers." He stepped forward, extending his hand.
"Um, just in case you forgot, or they failed to tell you. Number one; I go by Buffy. Number two; I don't work for the Council anymore." She crossed her arms, hoping he understood the body language she was sending him. It clearly stated, get lost.
"Well, yes, I see." He smiled. Was he an idiot, she pondered? "Buffy. Actually I am not here for you. I am here for Faith." He said, looking behind her.
"So you are her new Watcher?" Buffy asked. He looked strong, that might be a good thing for him.
"That has yet to be determined. There are-"
"Yeah, okay whatever. I don't have time to listen to you pontificate."
"Buffy!" Giles exclaimed.
"Sorry." She snapped, not really meaning it.
"I just didn't know you knew that that word meant." He grinned, and Buffy groaned.
"I will go get your Slayer." Buffy turned, moving back to the kitchen but called back over her shoulder. "I hope you live longer than the rest."
I leaned forward, watching Red. She was just totally going for it, loosing herself in it. But I was a little worried. She hadn't moved for way too long. I reached my arm out, and closed the laptop on her. Her eyes rounded and she looked at me.
"I know you are super humanly strong, and all. But can you not touch the computer. Kind of expensive. Please don't hit me." She ducked sheepishly, and I laughed.
"Not going to hit you, Red. And I will try not to touch the little box thing you love so much. But here's the thing. I want you to go home."
"I am – oh you mean the apartment?"
"Yeah, I mean the apartment. It's still daylight, why don't you run along." I said leaning back.
"But," She leaned forward whispering. "Remember what I said about being alone?"
"Yeah." I grinned. "Go, I will come by later."
"Yeah, Really." I set my hand on hers. "I don't know what is happening between you and me, Red." She blushed. "But me and you, we won't go down that particular road together. Neither one of us really want that. But friendship," I grinned. "Maybe." Her face flashed a few different emotions, before settling on understanding. I didn't know how to make it any clearer for her. She didn't float my boat, but she was kind of cool to hang with. I never had the chance before, but Tara showed me a different side of Red, the good and the bad. And I liked her. Weird.
"Okay." She stood, picking up her laptop, and moving towards the back door. "What about Buffy?"
"I will handle B. Go on. And be careful, okay?"
Buffy walked back into the room, looking at the table. Willow was gone. The books were gone. She had only been gone like five minutes. She turned to look at Faith, questioning her with her eyes.
"Red went home."
"Faith, she lives here." Buffy said, wondering where the red head that had looked so contented went.
"Naw, she's gonna be living over at my old place." Faith shrugged.
"Oh, right. Tara stayed there."
"Ding. We have a winner. So what is the deal with G-man?"
"Well, he brought a friend with him, with an affinity for tweed, and dust."
"New Watcher." Buffy grinned up at Faith, and Faith returned the smile, widely. Buffy felt her breath catch at the brightness of the smile, and the dimple that danced on her cheek. How had she ever forgotten that smile?
"We've had this conversation before, haven't we?" Faith asked, leaning down to pick up one of Buffy's grapes and pop it in her mouth.
"But I haven't seen this one, so I can't say if he's cute or not." She crossed her arms. "Wanna fill me in?"
"I don't know your tastes." Buffy smiled.
"Oh, B, I think you do." She winked.
"Alright then." She closed her eyes, pretending to be thinking. "Not your taste."
"Doesn't wear a bra." Buffy giggled.
"Doesn't mean I won't be interested." Faith laughed, bending down. "I'm not that selective. People are beautiful, all of them." She whispered in Buffy's ear, and she felt a shiver run down her spine. This is what she had missed, this playfulness between them. It had been give and take, right on the edge, until Buffy had made the mistake; she had gone with what was comfortable. She went for a cold walking corpse instead of the warm body beside her. She sighed, looking up at the brunette beside her. Could they ever get back to being friends? Faith met her glance, and stepped back, her smile falling, but just for an instant. But Buffy saw it fall. "Wait, did you say a man?"
"Yes." Buffy said, still watching Faith's face.
"I have a male Watcher?" Faith walked around the table, tapping her fingers on the oak top. "A fucking male Watcher."
"You said that already Faith." Buffy said, wondering why she was suddenly mumbling and obviously thinking. She turned her eyes to Buffy, and they were wide.
"Faith! I get it." Buffy snapped, standing up. "If you are so fucking amazed that they sent you one with a cock tucked in the tweed, then go out into the living room and say hello." Buffy snapped, watching Faith smirk.
"Hmm. You don't get it, do you B?" Faith walked to the door. "Maybe you need some time to figure it out." She pushed through the door, and Buffy watched it swinging in her wake. What the hell was she talking about?
Giles watched Faith as she slowly walked out of the kitchen. She moved slowly, hesitant steps moving her across the hard wood floor. He wondered what her reaction would be, being faced with a representative of the Watcher's Council again. He knew all too well the last time Faith interacted with the Council, and that had been with them using machine guns. He could only ponder at the many different thoughts that she could be having at this moment. But she seemed relaxed, and he sighed with relief.
"Faith," Giles began, taking a step forward, but she held up her hand.
"I got it. You are the new Watcher? I'm Faith." He watched as she extended her hand, and Strand took it, shaking it firmly.
"Holburn Strand." He said kindly, smiling. Giles had only spent a few hours with the young man, but liked him. He seemed sincerely interested in working with Faith. The young Slayer stood back, her hands on her hips, looking Strand up and down.
"How the hell am I going to shorten a name like that, G-man?" She asked smiling at Giles. He shrugged, smiling.
"Well, Faith. I am glad to meet you finally. I do hope that we can put past grievances aside, and take steps to move forward." He smiled again.
"Lots of water, and most of its under the bridge." Faith nodded. "But, there are tests G was going on about, and I think there is a lot to talk about, and I would rather not do it here." She looked over her shoulder to the kitchen. "Especially if you being my Watcher means what I think it means."
Giles was impressed. The girl was paying attention. He took off his glasses, and began cleaning them. "If you are thinking that with Mr. Strand as your Watcher it means that-"
"Not here Giles." She stopped him, and took a step towards the front door. "Come on, you Tweed. Let's walk and talk." She walked out. Strand looked at Giles, eyes worried.
"You will be fine, and if not, well it was nice meeting you." Giles laughed, and walked into the kitchen.
I could hear him jogging, trying to catch up. I wondered if I started running, if he would to? And then, how long would it take him to really start sweating under all that wool and starch. Poor kid, I grinned, slowing down and letting him fall into step with me.
"So how should we start all of this?" I asked him.
"Well, back at my hotel I have the documents that I was presented with by-"
"Blah, blah, blah." I waved my hand around. "Let me cut through some of the shit, at least how I am seeing it." I winked at him, "And you tell me if I get it wrong."
"First thing is this. They sent only you, so they must be leaning towards me being just good enough not to kill right off the bat." He smiled, just a little twitch. Score one for me. "You are here to do some head shrinking, is what I am thinking. And if it doesn't look like I am on the path of murder and mayhem, well then you are going to offer me the job."
"Correct. We believe that you have paid for your crimes,"
"Not really. We all know I should have been locked up for a hell of a lot longer than I was." I shrugged. "But I think you all know that three years to a Slayer, being in a cage, not being out slaying, is like locking some regular shmuck up for fifty years." I stopped, looking him in the eye. "It was the longest, most painful three years of my life. I could feel it, every night, when the sun went down, the ache in my chest, the pounding of my heart, the thundering of my head. Every muscle in my body screaming for me to get out of that cage, to get out side and slay."
"Are you slaying now?" He asked.
"And how are you feeling?"
"Still hurts, but not so much. Every kill is lessening it, making it a little easier to breath. I still have a long way to go." I shrugged.
"How do you feel slaying?"
"Besides the obvious, which is amazing. I feel like I am doing my job, I feel like I am helping, making a difference."
"And that is good."
"Please, go on."
"You, male Watcher. Only the chosen gets a male Watcher. And I mean THE chosen." I smiled, but I wasn't completely sure if that made me happy. I mean, this would be a major blow to her. And I mean major.
"Buffy Summers has not worked for the Council for some time. We believe that it is imperative that the Slayer works for, erm, with us. We need each other." He said. "So yes, if you are deemed responsible, acceptable, you will be The Slayer, with the full backing of the Watchers Council, and it will be your duty to protect the Hellmouth."
Giles made a pot of tea, and was preparing to sit down with Buffy and explain to her exactly what the Council had planned for Buffy. She was fidgeting in the chair, tapping her fingers. He set the pot down, and two mugs, and began filling one.
"Buffy!" Dawn exclaimed bursting through the back door, causing Giles to spill the tea on the table, and it rolled quickly across the polished oak to his lap, where it made him jump.
"Bloody hell." He exclaimed, pushing the chair back.
"Dawn, what in the hell is a matter with you?" Buffy asked, looking bored.
"I was just glad I caught you before your shift, I need to borrow twenty dollars." Dawn held out her hand, as Buffy shot out of her chair.
"Shit, work." She ran out of the room.
"Buffy!" Dawn whined.
Buffy, spun on her heel, ran back in the room, took the twenty that Faith had given her out of her pocket, tossed it at Dawn, and then ran back out of the room. She couldn't afford to be late again; she needed this job, no matter how horrible it was.
"You need to get a job!" She yelled back as she took the steps two at a time.
"With that said, Faith, I will need to of course test your strength, your endurance." He was kind of cute, I would give him that. He looked eager too. No baggage, not that I could see just yet, but these guys liked to surprise you. I had been on the end of their surprises enough to know.
"Those will be a walk in the park, HS." I grinned. "Wow me with something else."
"Oh, right. There will be an IQ test. And then what is known as the, erm, Inkblot Test." He looked over at me, and I could tell he was searching my face for recognition. So here I was with a question for myself. Play the dumb slut, the one they all thought I was, or watch his jaw drop.
"Right, The Rorschach Psycho diagnostic Test, also known as the Rorschach Technique and popularly as the "Inkblot Test". It is the most widely used projective psychological test." I grinned.
"You know it then."
"You could say that. See, it is generally administered to teens and adults but can be used with children as young as three years of age." I smirked at him. "That was the first time I took it. When I was about three."
"I had no idea," His jaw had dropped. Score one for the Slayer.
"I guessed that."
"Have you taken it since?" He asked.
"Yeah, I took it in jail." I shrugged.
"And you know what it tests?"
"I know what they believe it tests, what you all will use it to test."
"Don't believe in it?" He actually chuckled.
"Unless you are in my head, then I am not buying it. No one can know exactly what is in here," I tapped my head.
"It has been proven to assess personality structure and identify emotional problems. Also the test provides information about a child's thought processes, perceptions, motivations, and attitude toward their environment, and it can detect internal and external pressures and conflicts as well as illogical or psychotic thought patterns." He was a Watcher, fucking walking dictionary. I could just imagine him and Red in the same room that would be a sight to see.
"You know your stuff there, Watcher-man." I stopped walking. "You a licensed shrink?"
"Actually in England, yes I am."
Cool. Okay, score one for him. "Alright. Where are you staying?"
"I would rather not,"
"Right, sorry forgot you might worry that I would come to kill you in your sleep." I laughed, for him, not for me. It always hurt just a little when I was faced with someone who didn't trust me. But I had to admit that I had done nothing to instill trust in anyone. Still it hurt.
"I would like to begin immediately."
"I am sure you would. But, I have an appointment, and then patrol. So I will find you tomorrow morning." I walked away from him, backward, looking him over again. "I still want to know if I have a say in this at all. I mean, what if I don't want to stay here?"
"It is your Duty." He said softly, but I turned, trying to ignore him. I didn't want to stay here. B was The Slayer, not me. This was where she belonged, not me. I was just here to fulfill my promise to Tara, and then I was gone. Let B have her perfect life in this perfect town.
This cannot be happening.
Buffy was standing on the street corner, looking through the full parking lot, to the Doublemeat Palace, watching as the flames leapt into the air at least twenty feet above the roof. The entire place was engulfed in flames. She knew her mouth was open. She was in a complete state of shock. IT WAS BURNING.
"Oh, Buffy, can you believe it?" She turned to see one of the new kids, he was just working during the summer, and she hadn't bothered learning his name, figuring he would be gone soon enough, so she thought of him as pimple kid, for obvious reasons.
"What, what happened?" She asked.
"Grease fire. I guess someone left the fries in, and Boom! The whole place just went up." He seemed elated. "It was amazing really. The whole kitchen just went up, I never guessed how flammable the ketchup was. You should have seen it, Buffy-"
"But, but, where will we work?" Her tone was even, though her head was screaming.
"We won't. Hey don't worry, I am sure you can find something else." He set his hand on her shoulder. Quickly she moved away.
"During the summer? You kidding?" It took me weeks to find this shitty job. This cannot be happening. Wake up Buffy!
"Well, you said it. It's summer, we should enjoy it right?" He nudged her shoulder. "Hey, you don't have to work now, you want to go over to the Pump and get something cold to drink?"
"No." She mumbled turning around and slowly walking back towards home.
Today had been a weird fucking day.
Starting early in the morning, seeing B and that whore in the alley, B touching her in ways that I didn't even figure B knew how to touch a woman. I thought it was all a nightmare, but no that had been real. Too painfully real.
Why did it hurt, Faith? Can you answer that question? Why did it hurt? What did you expect? What do you expect?
Just looking at B earlier I couldn't see past it. And then to have the Watcher show up, and have him being alone, not with a dart gun, or a small army. They wanted me. They wanted me to do my Duty, live up to my Destiny. But could I do it? I was always second best, could I be anything but? And what would B think? What would she do? Did I even want to stay here, in this town?
I must want to stay, I went and asked for a job, and I actually got it. On some level I must have wanted to stay.
I sighed and leaned on the wall, closing my eyes slowly. Time to take stock. I have a job, I have a Watcher, I have a full belly, and I am heading out for patrol.
Yes I wanted to stay here. Yes I wanted to be a Slayer. Yes I wanted to be needed.
Slowly I opened my eyes, and looked up at the night sky. Same sky, same stars. Same Faith.
Who would have thought that this could be my life? Sure there were still a lot of what ifs hanging around in the air, but all in all, life didn't suck for the first time in a long time.
I touched my finger to my lips. I was smiling. Wow. Okay. This is all okay. It'll be fine. No need to freak out, so what if I am walking down the street in the middle of the night smiling. I can be happy right? It is allowed?
I caught sight of a vamp heading into an alley up ahead, and took off running.
Yes, this was going to be a good night.
Giles hung up the phone, after listening to young Mr. Strand prattle on for far to long. That young man's head was filled with so many ideas on how to handle Faith, and the slaying that it gave Giles an immense headache. And he knew it would only get worse. Giles knew that Faith would pass the Council's tests, he could tell, just from interacting with the girl over the past few days that she was much changed from when she went off the deep end. He knew she was a capable Slayer, and would be an asset to not only Sunnydale, but also humanity at large. No, what concerned him was Buffy, and how she would respond to the news that she had been replaced. A year ago he would have thought this news to be a blessing for his Slayer. But after her return from the dead, she had been exhibiting signs, clear indicators that she had changed. She was walking a very thin line, and this last bit of news may be what would cause her to tip over that line.
He sighed heavily, hoping that in the morning she would be more approachable on the subject. Giles was not pleased with the Council's stance; they seemed to still believe that these girls were nothing more than, how did Faith put it? Tools, for them to use for the supposedly greater good. They never took into consideration that these girls, granted strong and mystical, were still girls, still human, with human emotions and human faults.
He heard the back porch swing creek, causing his head to turn in that direction. Who could that be? Willow was not staying over tonight, Dawn was out with her friends, Xander and Anya, surprisingly had gone out for dinner. He opened the back door and was shocked. Sitting on the swing was Buffy, holding her uniform hat in her lap. She was gazing at the laughable creature that jutted out from the cap, and there were tears on her cheeks.
"Buffy?" He asked softly, expecting the worse. Had she gotten fired?
"Hey." She mumbled, using the back of her hand to dissipate the tears from her cheeks.
"What is wrong?" He asked, fearing what she would say. Buffy always did manage to surprise him.
"I don't have a job." She sobbed, tears coming again.
"They fired you?" He asked.
"What?" She looked up at him. "No, no. I showed up, and the place was burning to the ground. Hence the no job." She shrugged.
"I am quite sorry to hear that Buffy." He set his hand on her shoulder.
"What am I supposed to do? House payments, food, clothes? I, I can't do this Giles." She looked back down at the hat.
"Of course you can. You will just need to get another job."
"Do you know how long it took me to get this one? No one will hire me. It is not like I can put Slayer on my resume, but that's all I know how to do."
"I doubt that. You are a very intelligent and capable young woman. Oh, what about the new High School? I know that they are opening in the fall, and they are still in need of a librarian." He said gently, watching her face.
"You are kidding right? I mean, hello, I blew up the last library."
"You may not have realized, but the faculty understood your position at the time. Perhaps before I leave I can inquire on your behalf."
"Leave?" She looked up at him, eyes wide.
"Well, erm, yes. I have been meaning to discuss this with you. You see Buffy; this is not my place anymore. As awkward as it is to admit, well, I have a life back in England, separate from all of this." He tried to smile, hoping it would alleviate the shock in her eyes. She knew he had to go, knew that Olivia was waiting for him, as was his life. Buffy just never wanted to admit it to herself or anyone else.
"Can my life get any worse?" She hissed softly, crying again. Yes, it will. Giles said to himself. But that would be for tomorrow. For now, he sat beside her on the swing, setting his arm around her shoulder, and pulling her close. Rocking the two of them on the swing. He would do his best to be for her now, for this little bit of time, but she had grown up, he had grown up, and Buffy needed to move on and be on her own.
It went from being weird to good. So what happened? I dusted three vamps, but then found myself over by the apartment. I told Red I would swing by, check on her. I forgot to remind myself that I would have to walk through the alley to get there. And that was when my mood tanked. From happy-go lucky, to wallowing in shit. But it had happened, and now I am here, in the thick of a deep scowl.
Why am I always drawn to B's sloppy seconds? I watched Jane walking up the alley, the way her hips swayed, barely concealed by her tiny leather skirt. What made her so fucking sexual? Before I thought she was attractive enough for maybe a one-off if I felt the need arise, but watching her slink closer I could not get out of my mind the way she look, her head thrown back as she quivered when B was inside her!
God what was my problem? I hated B, so why was I here, why was I hoping Jane would see me? Why did I want to feel her, just like B had? I am sick. And pathetic.
"Didn't expect to see you here." Jane said standing in front of me, her eyes racking over me. I could feel the look on my skin, it was that intense.
"Is she always so rough with you?" I whispered, and her eyes rounded.
"Nothing. Never mind." I stood up straighter. "You need to find a new place to work."
"Excuse me? This has been my alley for-"
"Listen, I don't give a shit." I scowled at her, narrowing my eyes. "All of you are leaving this area. Do I make myself clear?"
"You're a Slayer, not a cop, so you can't tell me-"
I grabbed her arm and slammed her against the brick wall, pressing myself against her.
"I am serious, little girl. You will find somewhere else to work."
"You like it rough too, huh?" She laughed, trying to wiggle away.
"You can't get away. You should know how strong we are." I hissed, pressing harder.
"Jealous?" She snapped.
"Never." I hissed.
"What is your problem, Faith?" She groaned, just wanting to get away from me.
"I want to clean up the area, that's all. For a friend."
"Tara never minded us being here, she made it safe for us."
"Yeah, well Tara isn't coming back here." I pushed off of her. She turned, rubbing her arm.
"What is your problem with me?"
"No problem, girlfriend."
"Buffy doesn't care that we are down here. Likes to know where I am." She leered. I wasn't sure if she knew that I had seen them, but she was trying to rile me. I knew all the games, I invented the games, and I would not be played.
"If you knew what was good for you, you'd stay away from her."
"I don't think so. She needs me. She needs me more than she needs Spike."
"So you know about him?" That was a shocker. But then again he was neutered what was the worst that he could have done?
"I've played with them once or twice." That was like a slap, but I kept my face frozen, not letting her see that effected me. What in the world was B thinking? "You want to know how I met her, Slayer?" She asked.
"No." I turned away. I wanted to turn off my ears.
"For a few weeks she would come and stand over there. Under that lamp, looking up at that apartment. You know, Tara's place. Finally I went over and asked her what she was doing, and she said she was waiting. Waiting for me."
I turned back around facing her, but not saying a word.
"And that night she fucked me for the first time."
"I don't care." I hissed.
"But you should Faith. She cried the whole time." What in the hell was B doing here, hanging around my old place? "That was the only time she let me touch her." I felt that like a slap. Not sure why it hurt, but it did.
"I don't care." I turned around, walking away, this time I would not stop; I would not listen to her.
"She called your name when she came, Faith."
I ran my hand over my face, Jesus B, what are you thinking? What is happening to you? That whore has to be lying. She has to be; there is just no way-
"We aren't done here Slayer." She called after me, but I opened the apartment building door, letting it slam behind me. It wasn't true, none of it was true. Jane was a whore, and whores played upon people to get what they wanted. That was it. She was lying.
"Actually Buffy, we should talk about the Council and Faith, and the ramifications that may have on you." Giles said.
"How could it affect me? I don't work for them." She wondered why they were suddenly talking about Faith. Were they not just discussing how terrible Buffy's life had become? She thought for sure Giles above all the others would know that Buffy did not want to talk about Faith.
"Precisely. You see Buffy, if Faith passes these tests, and the Council of Watchers High Panel agree, then Faith will be the Slayer."
"Fine, I can deal with this. I mean, so what if she works for the Council, right? I mean I am still the top Slayer here." She knew what he meant, but she refused to acknowledge it or accept it by saying it out loud. This was her life. Her Job!
"No, Giles. I am. This is my town, and my show. She is second string, always has been, always will be. These are my friends, my Hellmouth. And if she wants to fight for it, no problem. I took her out once. I can do it again."
"Buffy, I don't think you quite understand."
"No you don't. I am the Slayer. And now, we are done here." She stood up. "I am going out to Slay, to do my destiny. Mine!"
She opened the door to see Faith standing there, her face looking so drawn and clouded, it made Willow's smile slide away. She stepped aside wordlessly, motioning with her hand. But Faith did not move.
"Faith?" She asked softly, and slowly the Slayer raised her eyes, they looked even more clouded than usual. Willow felt her breath catch in her throat. "Are you alright?"
"Sure, Red." She closed her brown eyes, and when they opened again they looked like to orbs of stone. Nothing seemed alive behind them. The gaze was one Willow remembered well. She had seen those eyes in the Mayor's office, as Faith slinked across the room. "Just making sure you're alright."
"Um, yeah, I am doing pretty good." She cocked her head, wondering if what she was about to do would get her slapped, or worse. "What is wrong? Is it Buffy?"
"Buffy." She sneered. "Always about her, isn't it? Well, you know what?" Her eyes were fiery. "That is all about to change."
"Well we meet again, Slayer." He was very pleased indeed. He had been hoping to see her again. This time he had others with him. Enough this time as well. So she had bested two of his men. How would she fair against ten?
"Looks like." She shrugged, taking the stake from her jacket.
"Must admit to you, the outfit? Not befitting." He smirked, teasing her red striped shirt, her polyester pants.
"No? I used to like it." She couldn't be serious. "I can still dust you all in it. Fashion doesn't affect the slayage." She gave him a wide grin.
"So you can take us all on, can you? That is such a boast, from some one so, shall we say, small?"
"Can we just kill the Slayer now, Lango-"
"Silence!" He yelled at the insolent minion beside him. Nearly saying his name, what if the Slayer, by some miracle was able to escape. He would have to kill this insubordinate. But that would come later.
"They all talk back like that?" The Slayer smirked. "So tell me, Lego, why are you in my town?"
"To kill you."
"Please, so not a good reason." She kicked the vampire to her right, who got to close. "Try again?"
"I will not give away my plans."
"Not so confident in your posse huh?" She smirked.
"Kill her now." He waved his hand, bored with the banter. Her heart just didn't seem in it.
"Faith, you are, um, freaking me out." Red said softly, and I tried not to glare at her. It wasn't her fault that my head was spinning. It wasn't her fault that everything I had held onto for three years was slightly skewed. How would she know that B was out there fucking a whore, a whore that looked a hell of a lot like me? But did it mean what Jane alluded to? No, that just wasn't possible. Not in my world, not in my life. Perfect, golden, Buffy would never want me. But then again, would perfect Buffy fuck vampires and whores in alleys?
"Sorry, Willow." I said softly, stepping further into the hall. I needed to think about this. I needed to think about everything that was happening here in Sunnyhell. The day was completely different at the end than it had been at the start. "I need to go."
"But, Faith, if you need to talk." She stepped closer, but I shook my head.
"It's five by five."
The front screen door banged against the peeling frame as Buffy moved inside. Dawn turned to look over her shoulder, missing a few moments of the television show she had been engrossed in for the past hour. She noticed her sister's flushed face first, then her matted hair. Dawn was about to make a comment about proper hygiene, as her sister walked past, when she noticed the puncture wound at the small of her sisters back. She leapt from the couch, grabbing Buffy's hips.
"Oh my God, you're hurt!" Dawn exclaimed.
"Just a nick." Buffy shrugged away, moving into the kitchen. Her voice was hard.
"Are you sure?" Dawn asked, following, eyes moving over her sister, searching for any more injuries.
"I am sure, Dawn. Don't worry." She sat down with a bottle of water.
"What was it?" Dawn sat, still feeling her eyes wide.
"A big old party of vamps. Too many." Buffy sighed.
"What did you do?"
"Dusted a few and then ran like hell." Buffy laughed. "The Slayer ran." She shook her head and drank more.
"Where was Faith?" Dawn asked, surprised. There must have been a lot of them to make Buffy run away.
"Who knows." Buffy said. "But they were organized."
"Oh, no." Dawn knew that that meant. A big bad had come to town.
"We'll need the gang here in the morning. To start researching." Buffy sighed. "Can you make the calls? I want to get washed up."
"Sure. Are you sure you are-"
"I am fine Dawn. Just sore."
"But this is serious?" Dawn stood moving to the phone.
"I don't know. I am getting the wiggins when I think about this guy, so I think finding out anything we can will be good. Just, I would like you to stay close to home, until we figure all of this out." She moved out of the room. Dawn watched her go, still concerned. Even after all this time, Buffy was still not the old Buffy. Dawn wished there was something that she could do, but as always she felt helpless.
He kept stealing glances to his right. She looked good today.
Oh, who am I kidding, she looks good every day. He mumbled in his own mind.
This was different, the courting that he had been attempting over the past two days. It was new, and kind of nice. Xander looked at Anya again, as they moved closer to Buffy's. He had swung by the Magic Box to pick her up for the research fest they were having that afternoon.
"What?" She snapped.
"Um, sorry. You um, you look nice." He stumbled, caught in the act of watching her.
"Of course I am attractive to you. At this point you are not sure that you can have me, and to a male that is very attractive." She glared at him. "The question, Xander Harris, is once you get me will you still find me attractive?"
"Of course." He answered quickly.
"You didn't before."
"That wasn't why I did what I did, An."
"Oh, right. You were afraid." She snapped, walking quicker.
Faith had been right, this was going to be hard, and was going to take a lot out of him. But he wanted Anya back, and he would do what ever it took.
Strand walked into B's living room first, and I let him. This was a place I certainly didn't want to be, not after the morning of tests and questions. He poked and prodded my head for hours, and I actually answered him honestly. He wanted to know about the childhood I had, and I filled him in.
I was still pissed at myself for crying in front of him. But damn, the tweed knew exactly how to push and pull to set me off. The past was painful for me, and some days I prayed it would just go away, but then I would see a scar, or hear a sound, and it would all come back to me. The feel of her fist hitting my jaw, the sound of the bottle breaking. The crack of his belt against the door frame as he pulled it free of the loops on this pants.
Uncontrollably I shivered, and swallowed down the bile in my throat. Not here, not now. I was hoping that my eyes were no longer red, as I followed him inside.
This was going to be hard enough without her being able to sense any weakness in me.
I believe that the Council of Watchers will be in agreement, Faith. I am impressed with you and how far that you have come. You will be fully reinstated as The Recognized Slayer. That was what he had said, and his voice was rattling in my head. Over and Over.
"So nice of you to show up, Faith." B snapped as she came into the living room. She crossed her arms scowling at me, and for an instant I thought about hiding behind the tweed. What is wrong with me? A few tears, a few bad memories and I lost all of my strength? No fucking way.
"Knew you could handle it, B." I replied, setting my hands on my hips, feeling my shoulder muscles flexing as I made it clear that I was just as strong as her, and was not going to take any shit.
"Ah. Buffy. This is quite fortuitous. We all need to discuss the situation." HS said smiling.
"You know about the new baddie in town?" B looked between him and me.
"Oh, well no." He swallowed. "We can get to that. Faith will be handling the situation from here on."
"Excuse me?" She snapped.
"All we are waiting on is written confirmation from London, but that is just a formality really. Faith is the Slayer, and will be staying here in Sunnydale with me to protect the Hellmouth." Where in the hell was Giles? He knew how to talk to her.
"Did I suddenly get struck dumb? You did not just say that." Buffy hissed.
"Actually I did." He responded, not fazed. I watched her face flushing, slowly, but it was happening. "Faith will take over your responsibilities. You will be free of your duty." He said it like it would make her happy. Maybe before it would have, but not now.
"This is still my town." She growled, and I gave HS a stern look.
"She is right. This is her world, we are just guest stars in it."
"No, Faith. You should-"
"You know what? It'd be real helpful if you weren't here right now." I snapped, keeping my jaws clench. "I bet Giles wants some help looking through those books in the basement, HS, so why don't you go and help him." He was going to make her head explode. Either that or she was going to kill him. And I didn't want another dead Watcher.
"I am sure that he has this all under-"
"NOW!" Both he and B jumped.
"Right, of course. How silly of me." He turned and left quickly.
She was glaring at me. I wished that she could see that this wasn't my doing; I didn't ask for this. But looking at her face, I could see who she blamed. Me. She spun on her heel and went into the kitchen.